29 February 2008

Anyone near an Office Max tomorrow? Need Sharpies?

If so and you've not seen this coupon, run out and take advantage of it. Looks like you can print the coupon twice and give another to someone else in your party. A 12-pack usually runs about $25. This is a good deal!!

Wow. An extra day...

What to do? What to do?

I got nuthin'.

28 February 2008

Substitutions gone awry

The Pioneer Woman has a new recipe up today at her cooking blog. It looks delicious. I have a love/ hate relationship with recipes that use industrial ingredients as substitutes for real cooking. Like these rolls, for example. Part of me loves them. Part of me is just disgusted with myself every time I make them. (I'll be disgusted with myself again on Sunday when I take them to First Sunday Fellowship, fyi.)

I modified PW's tomato soup recipe last night with stunning results. I had to make some substitutions. I used a 15 oz can of tomato sauce instead of the tomato juice. And I used leftover real whipped cream from Valentine's Day (don't worry -- I ate some a day before to make sure none of us would die or have "intestinal issues" -- I sacrifice for this family) for the cream and sugar. And I used red wine and boiled it before adding the cream. But despite all the substitutions it was delicious.

When I was telling my sister my plan, I told her I'd have to make some substitutions. I didn't have sherry. But I did have NyQuil and that has alcohol in it, right? I'm sure it would have worked.

It occurred to me today, while reading PW's apple dumpling recipe, that there probably is a recipe out there using NyQuil. Maybe a cherry cobbler or cheesecake?

I bet it is delicious, too.

26 February 2008

On the less festive side of things...

Daniel has pneumonia. Right now, I think he's doing ok. He got an antibiotic shot yesterday and he's getting breathing treatments through a nebulizer and oral steroids and antibiotic. We go back tomorrow to see if he is better.

This illness came on SO quickly!! He had a runny nose on Saturday morning and then yesterday, I could tell he wasn't breathing right and we got him in to see the doctor. In the meantime, he had all of the typical cold treatment -- warm bath, Vicks on a kleenex in his pajamas, a steamy bedroom with the help of the vaporiser. But the pneumonia set in, anyway. And he also has two ear infections. Poor kiddo.

While we were at the doc yesterday, I had them check Annalivia out. She has one ear infection. I'm hoping that explains away some of her recent squirrliness.

All of the above meant that Annalivia had a very pre-fab birthday dinner yesterday. We stopped at Kroger and got a rotisserie chicken, bread and some frozen veggie mixes as well as a Pepperidge Farm cake and some strawberries. It was so nice to have dinner mostly made. Dennis' mom came by and we were actually able to have a pretty nice celebration despite a very hectic and trying day of a sick, fussy little guy, office visits and lab work and delayed prescriptions and sleet and snow.

Today, we are staying in. I've got the chicken from last night in a pot on the stove and we're having chicken noodle soup tonight. It smells wonderful and warm in here. Daniel and I are still in pajamas. Annalivia is in ballet gear. Again.

It's a good day.

25 February 2008

One last birthday photo

Ballerina birthday

My ballet-mad daughter got a complete ballet outfit including homemade tutu, some Angelina Ballerina dvd's and a ballerina puzzle for her birthday today. She wore her tutu all morning and when we got home this afternoon, immediately changed back into it.
Now she is showing Grandma how to do specific moves. I, for one, have never seen such lovely pirouettes...

She's 3 years old!

24 February 2008

Moveable church

We're making some long-overdue improvements to our church right now. We are pulling up the carpet in the sanctuary and refinishing the floors under the pews. Everything is out-of-place right now. Pews are everywhere, hymnals stacked on flat surfaces, organ in the hallway...
We had planned today to have church in the fellowship hall. But yesterday my board chair/ custodian called and told me that the fumes from the floor sealant were overpowering. So -- a gajillion phone calls later, we decided to convene church at the American Legion today.
And it was lovely. Since I had called everyone last night, we had lots and lots of people there. Everyone had gotten a personal invitation, after all. We had no piano, so we had to sing songs that we, a non-singing congregation, knew well. And we had to kind of wobble the church service about. It was great.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine told me about his congregation that had experienced a fire in the sanctuary. For four months they had to meet elsewhere and during that time, they doubled in number. I remember him telling me that the wonderful thing about being church someplace else, is that everyone is a guest. Hospitality is essential.
And I think he was right about that. We're going to be worshipping elsewhere for at least the next two weeks. This might be about the best thing we have experienced in a long while.

21 February 2008

Fun Mom

I'm making a concerted effort to spend some time just having fun with Annalivia each day, especially at this age when she gets SO much correction. Yesterday, we had a tea party while Daniel was napping. Today we made newspaper hats (just like Kipper!). More fun to come...


Daniel has sharp teeth. Nothing is safe.

19 February 2008

Brrrr.... (a recap)


You know what? I'm done. I've completely had it with winter!! I'm tired of cold, tired of snow, tired of coats and sniffles and being inside. WAAAAAHHHHH!!!!

Ok. I feel better.

So today, on this extremely cold day, we are headed to the office for a while. I don't have much to do there, because I already have a sermon and bulletin done, because... we got to cancel church on Sunday. (And we aren't die-hard lectionary-followers). So, hurrah for being prepared a whole week ahead!

Our decision to cancel was a late call. But when I got to church and slipped and slid my way across the rain-soaked packed-down snow on the sidewalk and parking area wearing my largely slip-proof Keens, the board chair and I agreed it was silly to ask a congregation of older ladies to imperil themselves for church. So, we cancelled.

Dennis needed to work on a presentation for class so I took the kiddos to the Disciples church across the river. And -- oh. my. word. My husband is a saint. It was literally the second time I have sat in worship alone with both of the kids -- the first time being when Daniel was 3 weeks old. I was totally flummoxed. We must have entered and exited the church 5 times to deal with Daniel's fussiness. We ended up in the nursery where we stayed for the ENTIRE service until we came back to collect our stuff and apologize profusely to the people sitting around us. Somehow Dennis is able to keep the kids in the sanctuary for the whole service at least 75% of the Sundays they come to church. I'm going to figure out how he does it, though probably not for a while.

Sunday afternoon I had rehearsal for my Canterbury Singers. I wasn't able to stay and sing Evensong this week, but will next week and I'm looking forward to that. It's a neat group and they sing just REALLY good stuff.

Yesterday we stayed inside and in pajamas all day. It was lovely. I baked -- some things more successfully than others. We had bland cauliflower soup for dinner while Dennis was at class and Annalivia did not want to eat it. About two hours later, she decided that she'd eat it so she could have a piece of chocolate. She kept asking for crackers in it; it really was not very good. But when Dennis got home, he liked it. So.

And now to get on with this day. This freezing, frigid, wind-chilled day.


16 February 2008

Supah sistahs

I got to hang out with my sisters today!! I love it when I get to hang out with my sisters. They are so freaking hip. And they are hilarious. When I leave them, my stomach and throat always hurt from laughing. But that's a good thing.
We were pretty low-key today. We went to a couple thrift stores in Peoria, much to Kali's chagrin. My sistah, Roo, is a thrift-store pro. She is amazing. We went into one Goodwill and gave ourselves 10 minutes to get to the checkout counter. By about six minutes into it, Roo had found a pair of Born sandals, a pair of BCBG pants for Lil, a very cool lampshade and some other thing I've forgotten. I was amazed. I ended up with a stone baker at that store, and later found some overalls, a fleece snowsuit, and some shoes for Daniel, and a funky tablecloth that could be made into cool shopping bags, were I to be enterprising. And I also found a very cool maple dresser at a Salvation Army on my way home that I might try to buy next week, if it is still there.
Before we went thrifting, we had lunch at One World, a very funky and cool coffeehouse next to Bradley University. We have been going to One World since I was in high school and it is just a good place to go -- good food, good coffee, good drinks, good atmosphere. We each ordered different stuff and shared, so we had spinach and feta pizza, falafel, asian spring wraps, and grilled chicken. They were all delicious.
I got to introduce falafel to Lil, who is just born to eat it, and the experience reminded me that I have a great pita recipe and have made some really good falafel in the past. So here is that middle-eastern recipe, in honor of my middle-western sistahs.

Super easy falafel(-ish)

Hummus (chickpeas, garlic, tahini (see note below), lemon juice, salt) -- about two cups
egg or two
breadcrumbs or coarse flour
onions, finely chopped -- 1 or 2
fresh parsley, chopped -- half or whole bunch
cumin -- 1 T or more
coriander -- 2 t or more
more garlic, minced -- at least 2 cloves
Add garlic, parsley, onions and cumin to hummus (to make falafel green, finely chop parsley or mix in food processor). Taste for salt, etc. Add an egg or two (or don't -- see note below). Add flour, a tablespoon at a time until it is a thick mixture that can be formed into a patty. Form into a ball -- slightly larger than a golf ball and flatten slightly.
Heat coconut or olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add falafel(-ish) patties and fry until brown and crispy.
Serve in aforementioned pitas with parsley, tahini sauce and yogurt sauce. Lettuce and tomato are nice accompaniments, too.

Yogurt sauce

chopped tomato (optional)
Mix. Adjust. Eat.

Tahini sauce

4 cloves garlic
1/2 c. tahini
1/2 t. salt
1 T. water
juice of 3 lemons
Use food processor to chop garlic and mix tahini, salt, and water. Add lemon juice slowly into food processor until very creamy. Add a bit more water if necessary.

This is obviously not completely authentic falafel, but it IS delicious. And really easy. And delicious. Really delicious.
Edited to add: A purist has noted that these recipes may contain verbotten ingredients (i.e. egg and, apparently, tahini which should not be IN the falafel). If there's one thing I truly adore, it's a purist. Especially one who is insisitent upon removing time-saving adaptations to time-honored recipes. So, I've changed the name on this recipe to "falafel-ish". And if you are aghast at the idea of feeding your family a variation on the REAL, authentic falafel (which you can apparently find through the blog link left in my comment section or through a google search, using the words "authentic falafel" and then ignoring any that return egg in the ingredients), please, please, please -- DON'T use the above recipe. You are only setting yourself up for heartbreak and misery and a truly simplistic dining experience with ingredients you may have on hand. And I know you wouldn't want that.
Unless you do. In which case, grab the hummus in the fridge and make some falafel-ish. And enjoy. :)

15 February 2008

Book tag

Andrea tagged me. So, here goes...

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

The book closest to me happens to be Enough by Juan Williams. Part of the first sentence is on preceeding page.

"In the days after his first comments about crime at the 2004 Brown celebration in Washington, Cosby sent the press a statement in which he explained that he was speaking out as a call to end the feeling of helplessness among black people dealing with crime in the black community. He wanted to ignite "righteous indignation" as a basis for action against this scourge. He was willing to mention this cruel monster in the house as a first step toward organizing a plan for fighting back.
"'I travel the country and see these patterns in every community," Cosby said in his statement, "stories of twelve-year-old children killed in the crossfire between knuckleheads selling druge, the fourteen-year-olds with a sealed envelope as their first into the criminal justice system.'"

I will look forward to actually getting to this page to find out what all of this means.

I'm tagging whomever wants to play! Let me know if you do, ok?

Friday Five: The Water and the Word

From the RevGals...

1. When and where were you baptized? Do you remember it? Know any interesting tidbits?

Well, we emerse as Disciples, so I remember it very clearly. I was baptized on Palm Sunday in 1986. I was in fifth grade and had just completed Membership class. I remember wanting to take communion before my friend, Becky. So I made my confession of faith, not really understanding what it meant. I stood in front of the congregation in my junior choir robe and was SO nervous, but I very clearly remember our minister, Marvin, smiling his very gentle smile as he asked me, "Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the son of the Living God and have you accepted Him as your personal Lord and Savior?"
The baptism itself was in our beautiful, but little baptistry at Eureka. I think there were at least three girls baptized that day. The baptismal seemed HUGE and deep and I remember Marvin wearing his waders over his suit. I also remember being annoyed that I didn't feel much different afterwards.

2. What's the most unexpected thing you've ever witnessed at a baptism?

I baptized a woman in our church who was a larger woman. Our baptistry is RIDICULOUSLY shallow, so I always tell folks that it is imperative that they bend their knees as I lean them back. As I dunked this lady, she lifted up both feet and kept her legs straight. Essentially, she was floating, only with more splashing. Consequently, she had some problems standing back up and I kept saying, "PUT YOUR FEET DOWN!!" as firmly as I could until she did. That was just awkward. Though it did give my youth group at the time some hilarious fodder for a very irreverent cartoon.

3. Does your congregation have any special traditions surrounding baptisms?

In our congregation, as soon as someone wants to be baptized, we do it. We don't require it to be during the service. That's a little weird to me.

4. Are you a godparent or baptismal sponsor? Have a story to tell?

I AM a godparent. First, of my nephew Rhys, who was baptized recently. I missed his baptism. I'm also a godparent of Ethan and Caitlin, children of my childhood friend and her husband, one of my dearests from seminary. Because we baptize after the "age of accountability," godparents haven't traditionally performed much function in Disciples tradition.

5. Do you have a favorite baptismal song or hymn?

It's not a baptismal hymn, per se, but I love Go, My Children with My Blessing. I love the line that says, "In my love's baptismal river, I have made you mine forever."
I especially think it's perfect for people who performed baptisms in the creek out back behind the church. Great image.

14 February 2008

Praying for NIU

I know many have heard about the shootings at Northern Illinois University. NIU is about 50 miles from us. Lots of high school graduates in this area choose NIU as their school. Our area, and many of the communities around us are powerfully affected by this tragedy. Please pray.


He sure is GOOD

Valentine tulips from my sweet love.

Last minute pressies

So, let's suppose you are the kind of person who had Valentine's Day covered back in January. If you are that sort of person, this post is not for you.
(And if you are family from central Illinois, why don't you come back sometime this afternoon and read this? No reason...)

If, on the other hand, you are scrambling about trying to figure out what you or your children can make in the next two hours for someone, here are some ideas...

Annalivia and I made these very simple bookmarks tonight. I cut the pieces out with pinking shears and applied the glue. She applied the ribbons and heart.

These are some hair decorations for my niece. She loves rainbows and hearts and pink and anything sparkly and girly. The idea came from Family Fun magazine. It was SUPER easy!

This is another hair thingy for my niece. It is an elastic band that I covered in a small grosgrain ribbon that we got at Hobby Lobby for 14 cents the other day. To make, you just cut a length of ribbon and fold it in half to make a loop. Place the loop against the elastic, then pull both ends of the ribbon through the loop. Tighten the loop against the elastic. Repeat until elastic is covered (and try not to stretch the elastic too much).

Here is final product.

These can be made in lots of different colors. I find that the sheer skinny ribbons work best. The grosgrain will tend to undo its loop and the thicker sheer ribbons need to be cut longer to work well and look nice in the hair.

And if you have just a bit more time to play around -- back to the pinking shear hearts -- if you have a lot of costume jewelry lying about, a couple of hearts can be fixed together with a pin. You may need to add a self-adhesive pin on the back. Annalivia was glad to help with that part, too.

If you have any ideas for last minute (or well-planned) celebrations, feel free to share them here!

13 February 2008

Afternoon scene

If you were here at our house at this moment, you would see toys all over the place. Annalivia is doing ballet moves to Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and telling me periodically to "Just feel the music and you'll be fine." Daniel is also dancing -- walking in big circles and laughing and Annalivia and I are laughing with him. And I am wearing Annalivia's styrofoam princess crown and working on Valentine gifts, thinking that a more charmed life cannot be found.

09 February 2008

Plastic junk

I have been inspired. Various bloggers have been addressing "disposable thinking" lately. It is a philosophy that has far-reaching effects and can even influence such mundane things as how we present a daily meal to our family. I've been moved to start chipping away at the iceberg in my own mentality and try to begin creating beauty where possible.

So -- today we began phase one with a transition away from cheap plastic junk to glass and various ceramic-type storage stuff. We rounded up all of our plastic storage containers and cheap mixing bowls and will donate them to Goodwill. We replaced them with glass containers. I have a feeling it will be harder to misplace the lid to a glass container. That's my hope, at least.

We also bought a bunch of canisters and mason jars for dry goods. I'm trying to get my pantry a little more organized rather than having half-filled bags of flour and sugar and such all over my cabinet. If I need to cook more, I really need to be able to do it pleasantly.

I think this project will take me into tomorrow, also. But hopefully, I'll emerge with less cluttered cabinets and a cleaner counter. We'll see...

07 February 2008

The Birthday Boy

Daniel Robert Stewart
1 whole year old
What a big boy!

The waitress

Today Annalivia came up to my chair with a pad of paper and an orange crayon, apparently to take my order. She asked, "Would you like a sandwich, Mommy?"
"Yes, I would," I said.
"Soccer balls?" (meatballs)
"Yes, please."
"Hedgehogs?" (cheese balls)
"That sounds delicious."
"No, thank you."
"Jelly? Toast? Meat? Chicken? Eggs? Soup? Pancakes? You want some ice cream? I'm going to make cookies for you."
"Wow, Annalivia."
"And if you go pee-pee and poo-poo right in the toilet you get a sucker, ok?"
"Very thorough, Annalivia. Thank you."

05 February 2008

Local news

Tonight, for the first time since October, we watched local news as we wait for election returns. I had forgotten about how utterly stupid local news can be. We have a station in the Quad Cities that has a "LIVE. LOCAL. LATE-BREAKING" tag. That's supposed to be a good thing, but this station does the most ridiculous live reports ever. Tonight, at 10 p.m., they had a woman, bundled up in her parka standing on a city street with sleet pouring down around her. She was reporting on the lack of salt for city streets. And to illustrate the subject, she poured some ice-melt out of a cut off milk jug saying it was "the only salt the street see" in the next few hours.
Why in the world did this poor reporter need to be outside? Is live news really that necessary?
I think not.

04 February 2008

Random thoughts on the week ahead

Tonight Dennis is off to church to drop off the gumbo I made for an impromptu Mardi Gras celebration tomorrow. I invited the congregation and local clergy and families to stop by for gumbo, french bread and king cake during lunch. I intended to make gumbo for about 30, but somehow made gumbo for 100. I'd consider myself extremely blessed to have 30 people show up. My guests may not consider themselves blessed, though; they're all going to be required to take home gumbo.

I'm excited about Super Tuesday. Most of you know that I am wholeheartedly supporting John McCain. Some of you think I'm crazy. You're right about me being crazy. But not about this. Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, it is very, very good to be able to actually have our votes matter this year! I don't think I've ever been so excited to vote!

Anyway... moving on... the next day is Ash Wednesday and we will start our midweek Lenten service, Soup for the Soul. We are hosting it this week and I am in charge of making soup. It may be leftover gumbo.

This is one of my favorite times at church, partly because of the shear business of it, but also because it is a time to really hone in on how we are living out our faith in everday life. I just adore the whole vibe of Lent.

Dennis and I have been thinking a lot about what to do for Lent and came to a decision a few weeks ago after I got several books by Michael Pollan from Amazon. Our family is going to try a Lenten experiment of giving up as much industrial and processed food as we can without going broke. For us, this is going to mean eating as much organic produce and grains as possible and using organic and free-range meat very seldomly. Both he and I are kind of excited about it. We have been increasingly aware of the questionable way our country manufactures food with corn and its subsidized products being used in EVERYTHING. So we are going to see what it would be like to get off that merry-go-round.

We are, however, making an exception on Thursday, the second day of Lent, because our big boy is TURNING ONE!!! :( :( Everyday we are so grateful for this wonderful little being who has been entrusted to us. That he has been here a whole year is just amazing. Last year at this time, I was in hour 8 of the 39-hour labor marathon that brought him into the world. Crazy.

And on Friday, my incredibly generous and wondrous husband is going to take a half-day so I can go visit all my shut-ins in one fell swoop for the month. We'll see how that goes.

I have a feeling I'll be ready for Saturday.

01 February 2008

The Brit at our house

To start with -- those who don't know us should know that we are non-descript speakers around here. We don't sound like Chicagoans. We don't sound like Wisconsin-ites and we certainly don't sound like Southerners or Bostontonians. No one in this house has an accent of any sort except the indistinguishable midwestern kind.
Except for Annalivia when she uses the phrase, "I can't!" Which she pronounces, "I cahn-t"
We usually reply, "Yes. You cahn."
"But I cahnt," she says. "I cahnt."
Crazy child.

Friday Five: February Celebrations

The RevGals have a new Friday five with an option -- Superbowl or Holy Days. My guess is most of us church nerds are choosing #2.

Candlemas/ Imbloc/ Groundhog day/ St Brigid's day- all of these fall on either the 1st or 2nd February.
1. Do you celebrate one or more of these?

I've never really known about any of them other than Groundhog Day until this year.

2. How do you celebrate?
Dennis and I usually try to watch Groundhog Day which is one of our favorite movies. That's been about it.

3. Is this a bit of fun or deeply significant?
It's been just fun. But this year, I learned about WHY we celebrate Groundhog's Day when we do. (Do you know this? It's 1/2 way between the winter solstice and the spring equinox!) And Candlemas suddenly made MUCH more sense and had more significance. In fact, I wrote my newsletter article this month on Candlemas. Sort of. So, we may have to find something to observe in the future. My inner Episcopalian really wants to jump on board these things.

4. Are festivals/ Saints days important to you?
Formal festivals -- not so much other than the big'ns. But, my mother was always GREAT at making any celebration special. I never knew any other kids who observed MayDay, but we sure did.

5.Name your favourite Saints day/ celebration.
St. Patrick's Day. We really only observe it and Valentine's Day. But my mom has the BEST St. Patrick's Day celebration I've ever heard of. And it involves no beer.
But it does have a Leprechaun Basket.